What is fibromyalgia syndrome?
Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is a rheumatic disorder characterized by chronic achy muscular pain that has no obvious physical cause. It most commonly affects the lower back, the neck, the shoulders, the back of the head, the upper chest, and/ or the thighs, although any area or areas of the body may be involved. The pain is usually described as burning, throbbing, shooting, and stabbing. The pain: and stiffness is often greater in the morning than at other times of day, and it may be accompanied by chronic headaches, strange sensations in the skin, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, and temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ). Other symptoms often experienced by people with fibromyalgia include premenstrual syndrome, painful periods, anxiety, palpitations, memory impairment, irritable bladder, skin sensitivities, dry eyes and mouth, a need for frequent changes in eyeglass prescription, dizziness, and impaired coordination. Such activities as lifting and climbing stairs are often very difficult and painful. Depression often accompanies this disorder, and stress may trigger the development of problems similar to those associated with cardiovascular disease and adrenal gland disorders. Because the immune system is typically compromised in this disorder, opportunistic viral and bacterial infections are common as well.
The most distinctive feature of fibromyalgia, one that differentiates it from similar conditions, is the existence of certain "tender points" -eighteen specific spots where the muscles are abnormally tender to the touch. The eighteen points tend to cluster around the neck, shoulders, chest, knees, elbows region, and hips, and include the following :
There are 5 to 6 million people known to be suffering from FMS in the United States. However, the real number of cases is probably much higher, as this condition is often misdiagnosed. Fibromyalgia manifests itself in similar ways to chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), chemical sensitivities, rheumatoid arthritis, and chronic myofascial pain (shortened muscle fiber syndrome). As a result, it often takes a long time for a proper diagnosis to be made. In the past, FMS was known as fibrositis or fibromyositis, but both of these terms are now considered inappropriate because they imply inflammation of some sort (the suffixitis is medical terminology for "inflammation") and inflammation does not exist in fibromyalgia.
Most people with fibromyalgia also have an associated sleep disorder known as alpha-EEG anomaly. In this disorder, the individual's deep sleep periods are interrupted by bouts of waking-type brain activity, resulting in poor sleep. Some people with fibromyalgia are plagued by other sleep disorders as well, such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, bruxism, and sleep myoclonus (a sudden rapid contraction of a muscle or a group of muscles during sleep or as one is falling asleep). Not surprisingly, given all these sleep difficulties, people with fibromyalgia often suffer from chronic fatigue that can range from mild to incapacitating. Other disorders common in people with fibromyalgia include the following:
Fibromyalgia is much more common in females than in males, and most often begins in young adulthood. In most cases, symptoms come on gradually and slowly increase in intensity. They can be triggered (or made worse) by a number of different factors, including overexertion, stress, lack of exercise, anxiety, depression, lack of sleep, grief, trauma, extremes of temperature and or humidity, and infectious illness. In the majority of cases, symptoms are severe enough to interfere with normal daily activities; a significant number of people with fibromyalgia are actually disabled by the condition. The course of the disorder is unpredictable. Some cases clear up on their own, some become chronic, and some go through cycles of flare-ups alternating with periods of a parent remission.
Causes of fibromyalgia syndrome
The cause or causes of fibromyalgia are not known, and there are no tests that can diagnose FMS with complete certainty. Some evidence points to a problem with the immune system; certain immunologic abnormalities are common among people with fibromyalgia. Their significance and relationship to the syndrome are not understood, however. A disturbance in brain chemistry may also be involved; many people who develop fibromyalgia have a history of clinical depression. Some research has found FMS is more likely to occur in people who have a history of sexual abuse, domestic violence, and eve alcoholism. Other possible causes that have been proposed include infection with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), the virus that causes infectious mononucleosis, or with the fungus Candida albicans; chronic mercury poisoning from amalgam dental fillings; anemia; parasites; hypoglycemia; and hypothyroidism. Some experts believe that fibromyalgia may be related to chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), which causes similar symptoms, except that in fibromyalgia, muscle pain predominates over fatigue, whereas in CFS, fatigue predominates over pain. FMS has even been misdiagnosed as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's disease.
Home remedies for the treatment of fibromyalgia syndrome
Prevention tips for fibromyalgia syndrome
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